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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Big Girls Do Cry

A mermaid has no tears,

and that makes her suffer all the more.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid

Are you a frequent crier, like me? I've often ruefully wished there was a club for people like us - preferably one with points you could use for mileage.

When my father died twelve years ago today, I spilled so many tears that I thought the well would permanently run dry. I didn't understand then, nor do I now, how a body can continue to produce not just a trickle but a tsunami of tears. I sure have the past few weeks.

Perhaps that's why I'm so drawn to the following selection from beloved author Lucinda Secrest McDowell's new book Life-Giving Choices: 60 Days to What Matters Most. I'm encouraged to know that God has a purpose for our tears.

Here, in Lucinda's words, are the reasons why crying can be a good thing, both cathartic and caring.

"Have you seen the popular romantic film The Holiday? In it, the character Amanda (played by Cameron Diaz) is a young woman who hasn’t been able to cry for years. She simply shut down emotion­ally as a defense mechanism to keep up a strong façade. Although when she finally wants to cry, nothing succeeds in turning on the waterworks until she meets a certain widower. When it appears she has lost him and begins to weep involuntarily, that’s when Amanda knows it must be true love.

The ability to cry tears is part of how our Creator made us. In fact, research demonstrates women cry at least four times as often as men because there is a clear correlation between hormones and tear production. Having more prolactin makes us better producers of tears. Well, honey, that explains a lot!

Modern culture sometimes looks askance at people bursting into tears. But the saints of old saw crying as a grace gift. They called it the charism of tears—the compassionate act of crying with someone in their distress.

I’m reminded of the little girl who was late getting home from school and had to answer her worried mama’s question, “Why are you so late?”

“I had to help another girl who was sad,” her daughter replied.

“What did you do to help her?” asked the mama.

“Oh, I just sat down and cried with her,” said the little girl, totally unaware she had offered her friend a charism of tears.

When we choose to enter into another’s pain, we are offering a precious gift of empathy and compassion.

Tears are also the price we pay for loving. I discovered this truth years ago when my lifetime best friend committed suicide, leaving me a note. I lit­erally cried for days, like David. “My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:3 NIV). My crying was a catharsis of sorts on a path I had never expected. Even­tually, I—and most importantly her family—found the strength to move forward.

A godly older woman – Ingrid Trobisch -- once gave me good advice concerning my tears: “Allow tears to flow. Scientists tell us they wash toxic chemicals from our bodies. Psychologists say they wash pain out of our hearts. . . . Crying buck­ets of tears is a journey. It takes us from where we were before loss to where we’ll be once we’ve adapted to the changes loss brings.”

Who would have ever thought tears could be a vessel of renewal?

And yet the above verse reminds us that “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy” But there is a caveat—we must carry seed to plant when we go out weeping. We must not see our tears as an end but as a means to know God’s restoration. Then we sing as we return with the harvest.

When Jerry Sittser lost his wife, his mother, and one of his children in an automobile accident, he discovered how the soul can grow through tears and loss. He said, “I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it. . . . I picked up a paintbrush and began, with great hesita­tion and distress, to paint a new portrait of our lives.”

Even Jesus wept (John 11:35). He weeps when we weep, and I believe one day He will make clear the meaning and purpose behind every tear.

So, go ahead and cry…"

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest.
—Psalm 126:5–6

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Life-Giving Choices



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